The second habit of Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is to start with the end in mind.
There is much debate with writers around how effective this process can be. In his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King details how he starts a book with only the first line in mind. He creates the first draft with the ending developing as he works through it. Agatha Christie didn’t know the ending of some of her books until she had reached the last chapter. Alternatively, there are numerous writers who plan and progress their work with military precision, with the end always in mind.
Whether you are a planner, or a go with the flow writer, the shared commonality is that every piece of work has an ending. The question posed is could your writing be different if you started at the end?
There are numerous writing resources providing writing prompts to assist writers. What if you used that prompt as the beginning of a piece of work and then rewrote the piece with the prompt as an ending. In effect writing it backwards.
When I worked as a police officer a similar technique was used to retrieve information from witnesses. Witnesses would be asked to recall an incident as they saw it from start to finish. They would then be asked to recall the incident in reverse starting from the end and working back to the beginning. This gets the brain to operate in a different way and allows it to access detail it may have missed when using the traditional beginning to end method.
Last week I posted the blog Waiting for a Train: Part 1, the poem was the ending and started as a set of observation notes in my writing journal. Early one morning, last December, I had arrived early for a train and decided to watch and write what was happening. Initially I was alone in the waiting room and as time passed people began coming onto the platform and into the room. The train approached and the scene became frantic as people rushed to get on the train. I wrote furiously to keep pace and record what I was observing. In a very short space of time the waiting room went from calm to madness, back to calm.
If you read the poem and have now read this post, taking you from the end back to the beginning, does your view of the poem change? Has it changed your initial view and interpretation of the poem?
Have you have used methods similar to this in your writing? I would be interested in finding out how it influenced what you wrote.